Photo: Kondor83 (iStock)

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have found themselves at the center of a social firestorm in recent years. While many extol the virtues of genetic modification, even citing them as a solution to hunger and malnutrition, some critics have expressed concern about the potential health and ecology risks posed by GMO crops. Now, that debate looks to intensify, as genetically-modified animals could be on the way to restaurants and stores near you.

An Associated Press article highlights the work being done by Indiana company AquaBounty with their growing population of modified salmon. While its salmon won’t be fully ready for sale until 2020, AquaBounty is already the first company to receive U.S. approval for consumption of its GMO animals. Its method, which involves changing just one gene, allows the salmon to grow to full size at a rapidly accelerated rate: “To produce its fish, AquaBounty injected Atlantic salmon with DNA from other fish species that make them grow to full size in about 18 months, which could be about twice as fast as regular salmon.”

AquaBounty reportedly anticipates it will have salmon on the market by “late next year,” which sets the stage for a renewed debate among consumers about whether to accept new GMO processes for their food. While Congress passed legislation in 2016 mandating the disclosure of GMO processes to the public, that requirement won’t fully go into effect until 2022. In the meantime, it’s up to the discretion of the company or restaurant to disclose the information; for their part, AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf observes of possible buyers that “It’s their customer, not ours.” AquaBounty has already sold some of the fish in Canada, where disclosures are not currently required.

Ready or not, the wave of GMO animals is coming to your stores and restaurants, and it’s coming soon. The Takeout expects all continuing dialogue on this topic to be reasonable, nuanced, and involving no wild, scientifically dubious claims of any kind.

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